In 2008, the Illinois Tollway Authority (ITA) and the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) announced that permitting for overweight vehicles on IDOT maintained highways which cross over structures owned by the ITA may require ITA permission. The tragic August 2007 bridge collapse of I-35W in Minneapolis, MN caused a reaction of state transportation authorities nationwide to quickly examine and rate structures under their jurisdiction.
It was during these evaluations when the ITA discovered their legal responsibility for the structures over their highways. The maintenance authority, routing and pavement which traverse the structure may be under the jurisdiction of another unit of government, but the structure itself, along with the liability if it fails, rested with the ITA.
The ITA evaluated all of its structures, and many were found to be compliant under rules and weight limitations of “routine” permitting by IDOT. However, IDOT “superload” permits were not compliant with sixty-six ITA structure ratings. To compensate, the ITA began requiring a separate load analysis for any superload permit which crossed certain structures, even if an overweight permit had been granted by the permit authority of the traversing highway. If the weight and axle spacings were found to be within the tolerances by the ITA, permission was granted for the configuration for one year to cross ITA structures. If the load was not within tolerance, a different route would have to be obtained. In essence, two permits were required for the same stretch of highway.
While this rerouting around ITA structures is unarguably necessary to prevent a tragedy like in Minneapolis, it has created an undue hardship for the heavy-haul carrier industry. After the Illinois Truck Enforcement Association was created, IDOT leadership enlisted the ITEA help give the carrier industry time to adjust to the changes before enforcement began. The ITEA willingly agreed and promoted warnings only for more than a year as IDOT continued an educational campaign within the carrier industry.
IDOT continued to issue permits as usual for their highways which crossed over ITA weight limited structures, but began adding a disclaimer on the permit that tollway permission must be granted before the vehicle can cross. IDOT also included this in their administrative rules and added it to the OPER993 form.
Eventually, enforcement did begin. As in many other issues related to truck laws and regulations in Illinois, the proper method for enforcement was not entirely clear. If a superload crossed a tollway structure without permission, should the vehicle only be allowed maximum legal weights under the Illinois Vehicle Code, or should the vehicle be allowed the maximum routine permit weight of 120,000 pounds? Should an overweight violation be written or should it be cited as a violation of permit? If human error resulted in IDOT failing to list the tollway admonishment on the permit, should any violation be cited at all?
With a lack of any binding case law, the legalities of enforcement on this issue are left to the interpretations of many. If the truth of law is so abstract to not only police officers, attorneys and regulatory officials, how is it equitable that only the carrier industry is being held accountable by fines in the multiple tens of thousands of dollars?
It is because of this subjective reasoning that the ITEA hereby resolves to aggressively work alongside any and all regulatory agencies that have a stake in this matter in a concerted effort to bring resolution to the problem.
Protecting life and infrastructure are a foundation of the ITEA, and enforcement is a means to that end. This does not preclude government from doing its due diligence in providing the police clear statute to enforce such critical violations, and the carrier industry clear understanding of complicated laws prior to making overweight movements.
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